Disclaimer: No infringement of copyright is intended. This story takes place between "Hot Spot" and their heartbreaking date in the restaurant. It assumes that Michael and Fiona are adults. Content is not graphic but suggestive. Review if you like it or, especially, if you don't. Help me be a better writer. For non-members, you do not need to sign up to review; just enter your name as "anon" or "forum member".



I find her looking at me, sometimes, when she thinks I can't see. From my peripheral vision, I see that look –a profound soul-deep sadness- that breaks my heart. It takes her a moment to school that look before she can put on her normal face. But, the echoes of that sorrow linger and form the template for every expression she owns.

A little frown crinkled the skin between her eyes. He realized he had not responded to her last question. The gleam in her eyes had cooled.

He ran his hand up her back. "Sorry, what did you say? I was distracted." He brushed his lips against the line of her jaw. She turned her head to give him access to the other side.

Fi wants the life we have now. She wants the comfort of knowing that tomorrow we will have breakfast together, that we'll cook dinner for my mom on Thursdays, and that we will work together for the next crazy client that Sam brings around. She is missing me before I am gone. For her, every moment has the potential to be the last moment. It may be an instant known only in retrospect, but it will be the hour and the minute that she will grieve over or rage against for the rest of her life. She thinks it is what she will have to remember me by when I am gone. She is mourning my loss even now, and she is more afraid of losing me to my job than to death.

"Time for a real life?" she prompted him. "Can you leave Michael Westen, spy extraordinaire, locked up somewhere in the back of your brain? No recon today. No background checks. No gunfire."

If I get my life back, my old job, then I won't be in Miami. Not all the time, anyway. And, yes, my life has its dangers. So does hers. There are risks that can't be totally controlled and factors that can't be foreseen in everyone's life. Granted, I have more of those than most people. And, yes, standing alone in the shower in the quiet, I worry. When you're a spy, it's dangerous to lose your edge, to let your skills erode. It's even more dangerous to doubt yourself. Fi isn't the only one wondering if I have changed so much that I can never go back. How can I promise her that I won't disappear into an endless interrogation in a middle-eastern prison? Or that my fate won't be a flash of light and heat from a bullet I don't have time to hear?

"Be the real Michael Westen?" asked the woman who had known him first as Michael McBride.

He deliberately widened his eyes and nodded, at first slowly and, then, with increasing vigor until he looked like a bobble-head doll gone mad. She had to laugh, but she was nothing if not tenacious.

"Be just my Michael?" she asked. She rested her forehead against his sternum. He could hear the tears held back.

"Yes," he said, holding her away from him so that he could look into her eyes. He hoped she could see down to the heart of him. "Yes, I can do that."

Strategy is the way you prepare for the battle to come – moving men and equipment into place, forging supply lines, determining the plan of action. I have explained myself to her: my patriotism and my sense of duty. I know that I can make a difference – sometimes, a crucial difference. She hears me, but she doesn't understand these things in the visceral way that I do. What I have no words to explain is that, when I left Florida at seventeen, I began to make that boy into what I am today. I can't give that up. I am nothing if I am not that man.

On the other hand, tactics are the science of maneuvering forces once you have engaged the enemy. Fi and I have come to the crossroads between strategy and tactics. She has come to the point where she must push and I must push back. I am a very good tactician in military and intelligence situations. But the tactics of the heart are a mystery to me.

"For a little while," she says.

He could offer only what he had. "We have all afternoon. And all evening. And all night." He winked at her to make her laugh again and she did.

"You still have your pants on," she observed, hooking her fingers in his belt loops.

"So do you." He rested his chin on her shoulder and sighted down her back toward her feet. "Almost." He let his hand drift down past the lumbar sway to the swell of derrière and squeezed. When she smiled at him, there was no trace of sadness. He bent his head to take his first taste of her. And, yes, her mouth held a hint of honey.